Vellmar the Blade free giveaway (Olympics edition)

The Olympics have ended, and many of us are feeling a little post-Olympic letdown. We saw people doing practically superhuman things, overcoming incredible odds, demonstrating heartwarming acts of kindness…these are the stories that keep us watching, and now we have to wait another two years (or four, if you’re summer sport oriented) before we can see them again.

Take heart! There’s a way to mitigate the letdown. You can read Vellmar the Blade, a novella in the Chronicles of Alsea series that follows the adventures of Lead Guard Vellmar when she competes against her mother in the Global Games — Alsea’s version of the Olympics.

It’s not your usual story with a predictable ending, because as the blurb says:

Vellmar became a legend not for winning a championship, but for losing it.

At 102 pages, Vellmar the Blade is a quick and easy entry into the Chronicles of Alsea. It’s not part of the main story arc, but it offers an absorbing glimpse into the Alsean culture and some of the characters who live there. If you or someone you know have been interested in this award-winning series, but are not quite sure about tackling such large books…here is your entry point.

VtB books

In celebration of our own Olympics (and the fact that a lovely box of paperbacks just arrived at my house), I am giving away two signed copies of Vellmar the Blade in a drawing. To qualify for the drawing, simply comment on this blog post and share two things: 1) the name of your favorite female athlete from the Rio Olympics, and 2) the reason why she became your favorite athlete.

I will run the contest for a week and draw names next Tuesday. The two winners will hear from me that day, and as soon as I have addresses, I’ll pop your autographed copies in the mail.

And now I will sit down and enjoy the contest entries, because they’re sure to be a wonderfully diverse bunch of names and reasons.

Posted in good news, writing | 17 Comments

Chronicles of Alsea: all award finalists, all on sale

CoA covers

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog, and I will explain why in a future post…but in the meantime, I wanted to share some good news with everyone.

All three books in my Chronicles of Alsea series were published last year, and they have been racking up awards and accolades ever since. The Caphenon is currently a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and both Without A Front: The Producer’s Challenge and Without A Front: The Warrior’s Challenge are now finalists for the Goldies (awarded by the GCLS).

In celebration, Ylva Publishing currently has all three e-books of the series on sale for $4.99. If you’d like to give a gift to a friend, now is the time!

It’s only for today — the sale ends Wednesday at 06:00 German time (which is tonight for the US).

In the meantime, I am furiously scribbling on the fourth book in the series…

Posted in writing | 4 Comments

The camera you have

I went for a walk in the rain today, and on a whim decided to trek into a field I know well for its orchid population in spring. It’s really too soon for any orchids; they shouldn’t be there until next month, but I figured what the heck…

And there they were. None in full bloom yet, but quite a few pushing up their buds and several in that beautiful phase where the flower head is just about to unwrap and unfold.

Naked man orchid closed 1

I thought, “I’ve got to come back tomorrow with my Fuji camera and get some macro shots of these.” And then I thought about how fast flowers unfold, and how likely it was that this particular one would not appear the same in 24 hours of time…so I pulled out my iPhone, which goes with me on every walk because it houses my music library, and snapped a few pictures.

Dang if they don’t look pretty good.

Then I went over to the only open flower in the field (visible at the top of the above photo) and took a picture of that.

Naked man orchid open 1

You can probably see from this why they’re called Naked Man Orchids (Orchis italica).

As I tucked my phone (and earbud cords) back into my raincoat and resumed my walk, I thought about the photographer’s idiom that the best camera for the job is the one you have with you. It’s true.

But I’m still taking my Fuji back for macro shots.

Posted in wildflowers | 7 Comments

Total shock: the new Star Wars is fun for all

This is me eating crow and being delighted to do so.

My wife and and I took our kid to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night, and I went fully armed with my skepticism because, ya know, JJ Abrams and ruined Star Trek franchise and lens flare and women losing their clothes while playing bit parts as men do everything heroic. I predicted, possibly at length, that we were about to witness Abrams ruining a second epic franchise, but at least this wouldn’t be so awful since there wasn’t much left to ruin after George Lucas destroyed it with the Prequels That Must Not Be Named.

BUT! Either someone really reined JJ Abrams in, or he had some far better writers/advisors, or someone gave him some good drugs. Because this Star Wars is great fun for boys and girls. It has two separate hero arcs for two separate heroes: one is a young man finding both his courage and the right side to fight for, while the other takes the more traditional hero journey of a lonely young scrapper discovering her hidden powers, leaving her narrow, circumscribed life, and joining a fight far larger than she ever imagined.

We really enjoyed it. It was great fun, with (intentional!) humor and fantastic action sequences, gorgeous settings, and real honest-to-goddess acting. Also: nothing even close to Jar Jar Binks or Ewoks. You will of course be required to check all scientific awareness at the door, which I mostly did happily, though I still choked at the idea of draining the entirety of a star’s energy into a sphere the size of a planet (with a living forest and snow on top, no less). I also had to consciously suppress any mental calculations about how long it would take to slow a ship to below the speed of sound after entering a planet’s atmosphere at the speed of light while somehow avoiding being turned into a paste dripping down the inside front windshield. (Never mind the calculations on how a ship could hit a planetary atmosphere at the speed of light and not become an instant and spectacular ball of ionized gas.)

But those moments aside…this was fun. Just fun. I want to see it again if only to admire the amazing sets and action pieces. And can I just say how utterly, wonderfully fabulous it is that after six damn movies, Star Wars finally gave us a heroine?*

This film erases the painful, slow motion disaster that was the prequels, or Episodes I, II and III if you’ve never quite grasped that the prequels came after the originals (I never have). For the first time since The Phantom Menace made us all throw our popcorn at the screen in 1999, I am looking forward to a Star Wars sequel.

* (Yes, yes, I know: Queen Amidala. She had such promise early on, but then turned into a two-dimensional plot device whose only purpose was to provide a reason for Anakin to go to the Dark Side, pop out two kids, and die. Daisy Ridley’s character of Rey does more in the first half of The Force Awakens than Amidala did in three movies.)

Posted in entertainment | 8 Comments

The Caphenon on sale today

The Caphenon 500x800

Looking for holiday gift ideas? How about The Caphenon ON SALE for today only at Ylva’s Super Sunday sales. A different book is featured every Sunday this month, today it’s The Caphenon, and the price is just $2.99. That is two-thirds off the normal $8.99 price.

Let me repeat: The Caphenon is on sale for $2.99 right now, and only today.

Go get some for your family and friends!

Posted in writing | Leave a comment

Not-quite-wallpaper Monday

While looking around for wallpapers today, I came across this video, which is essentially 5:30 minutes of non-stop wallpapers that track a trail runner on his run up Suilven Mountain in the Scottish Highlands:

Suilven: The Trail Runner” is a short film following Tom as he runs out of the sleepy town of Lochinver, leaving civilisation behind and into the desolate and remote countryside, up onto one of the most distinctive mountains in Scotland. We follow him across the moorland, through the bogs and lochan before journeying with him onto the ridge, looking out to the Atlantic Ocean before descending to the south and visiting the Falls of Kirkaig as he leaves the mountain behind.

The filming is artistic and beautiful — one of my favorite moments is when the runner is seen from inside an old shack, as he flashes past the open doorway — and in combination with the gorgeous scenery, it makes for a visual poem.

Enjoy. (And if you can, watch it in HD, because holy moly. You can practically feel the rough texture of the heather.)

Posted in video | 2 Comments

That other rocket company

Though Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been getting most of the press regarding the technological race to create reusable rockets, they’re not the only game in town. Some other guy named Jeff Bezos, better known as the founder of, has also set up an aerospace development and manufacturing company. It’s called Blue Origin.

While SpaceX is focusing on the science, exploration, and supply side of things, Blue Origin is focusing on space tourism. They want to take you where no one has gone before — no one, that is, other than government-funded astronauts and private tourists wealthy enough to buy tickets.

I will easily admit to a bias regarding which team I’m rooting for, but as a good friend pointed out, profit has ever been the driving force behind many of humanity’s great advances. With that in mind, let’s admire and celebrate Blue Origin’s recent accomplishment of flying a rocket 100 kilometers into space and then landing it again, right on the pad. Fantastic technology and a true win for everyone.

(Hat tip to Walt.)

Posted in tech, video | 4 Comments

Wallpaper Monday

Bisti badlands

Filed under “Looks Like A Painting” — the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico, with a bit of gorgeous Milky Way thrown in for good measure.

This photo is a sci-fi story waiting to happen…

(Click the image to embiggen. Photo by Wayne Pinkston.)

Posted in wallpaper | 1 Comment

The Warrior’s Challenge is in the wild

Warriors Challenge cover

Without A Front: The Warrior’s Challenge has entered its pre-release phase, meaning that for the next two weeks, it is being sold in e-book format exclusively in the Ylva store. After that, it will be available everywhere, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (If you are looking for the paperback edition, it has been sent to the printers and we’re hoping it will be on Amazon by this time next week.)

We worked hard to get this book out in time for Thanksgiving, and that work paid off when I realized how much happiness we have brought into some readers’ lives. With permission, I’m reprinting a Facebook post that made my morning today:

Fb post

I would say I’m sorry for the fact that her family will be ignored, but…I’m not sorry at all.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in writing | 21 Comments

Wallpaper Monday


While the headlines and social media are saturated with news of the terrorists attacks in Paris, I’ve seen almost no coverage of the terrorist attacks in Beirut, which occurred one day earlier. The latest report from CNN lists 43 dead and 239 injured from a pair of suicide bombings. ISIS is causing misery in so many places and to so many people.

I looked around for Beirut wallpapers, but found only cityscapes. Looking a bit further afield, I discovered Baalbek, more properly written as Ba’albek. The site holds the best-preserved Roman ruins in the country, and the Temple of Bacchus (seen through the pillars here) was one of the largest of the Roman empire. The ancient Greeks and Romans knew the town as Heliopolis, a name I remember from my classical studies. I never realized the temple was still there.

(Click the image to embiggen.)

Posted in wallpaper | Leave a comment